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While thumbing through the 1949 Howler, we noticed 75-year-old Eustace Norfleet, who had returned to Wake Forest College more than 50 years after he left.
This original story written for a 1947 issue of the campus paper the Old Gold & Black by future Esquire magazine editor Harold Hayes (WFC ’48) is more than perfect… so here it is.
Determined Student Reenters College After 50-Year Delay
The CFPNTONS (Committee For Pinning Name Tags On New Students) looked, gulped, and looked again at the short, immaculate, gray-haired gentleman standing before them.
“Pardon us just a moment, sir,” said the chairman in an awed voice. The committee then went into a huddle.
After several minutes of frenzied debate, the chairman turned back to the gentleman with a harried expression on his face.
No Tag Needed
“Uh…sir,” he said timidly, “the committee has decided to waive the rule in your case; you won’t be required to wear a name tag.”
“It’s all right, boys,” said the gentleman. “I’d be happy to wear one of them. Just treat me as one of the students.”
Thus, for the first time in the history of Wake Forest College, a student asked to be allowed to observe a school rule. Also for the first time in the history of the college, a student returned to resume his studies after an interval of fifty-six years.
Mr. Eustace Norfleet, retired owner of a printing company in Wilmington, has returned to take up where he left off in 1892. Mr. Norfleet, or just “Norfleet” as he prefers to be called, was studying pre-law as a sophomore when sickness in his family made it necessary that he return home.
Upon his return, he became connected with the lumber business, moving on three years later to become a self-tutored bookkeeper. While he was thus engaged, he was given an opportunity to assist in the management of one of the first printing establishments in Wilmington.
After a short period of time, Mr. Norfleet found it possible to acquire a printing company of his own from which he only recently retired. Ever since he left Wake Forest he has had a desire to come back and finish his college education, but only recently has his business allowed him the time to fulfill his desire.
Receives Fan Mail
Since his write-up in the Raleigh News and Observer, Mr. Norfleet has received a staggering quantity of fan mail from friends and well-wishers. Among them was a letter from a man eighty-one years old who wrote: “I’m doing the same thing and you can take the word of an older man that it’s the best way you can spend your time.”
He is as enthusiastic about his work as a Rhodes scholar and feels certain that he will have no difficulty in applying himself. Although he needs only two years to satisfy the requirements for a major in religion, he likes the climate and he may stay longer.
When told he was to be photographed for the Old Gold & Black, Mr. Norfleet expressed amazement at all the excitement he has aroused and strictly emphasized that the article be a “modest” one.
When asked why he chose Wake Forest when he first went to college as a boy, Mr. Norfleet replied with a wink and a grin:
“Well, I wanted to go to Carolina, but my mother was a Baptist and she said I had to come here.”
Eustace Norfleet received his B.A. degree in 1949 and is believed to be the oldest student to graduate from Wake Forest. He was accompanied by his wife, telling a reporter they’d live in town “just like these young married veterans.” Norfleet died on July 28, 1955; he was 83-years-old.